New Music Roundup, September 24th-September 30th

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Sufjan Stevens and Angelo De Augustine – A Beginner’s Mind

★★★★☆

Released September 24th, 2021 on Asthmatic Kitty Records

Sweeping, folk-orchestral, and embedded with those teasing little Sufjan melodies: who knew that after reams of experimentation post-Carrie & Lowell all it would take was a collaboration to get him back into his prime.

Andy Shauf – Wilds

★★★☆

Released September 24th, 2021 on ANTI- Records

A sweet, laid-back little pocket indie pop record that seems at times equal parts Mac DeMarco and Paul Simon.

Various Artists – I’ll Be Your Mirror: A Tribute to The Velvet Underground & Nico

★★★☆

Released September 24th, 2021 on Universal Music Group

A remake of the VU’s classic done by various members of the indie glitterati. It’s all listenable but pretty uneven in its effect. Michael Stipe’s clear-voiced take on “Sunday Morning” is glorious, as is Sharon Van Etten’s hazy “Femme Fatale.” Andrew Bird’s slashing violin on “Venus In Furs” is probably the best moment on the record, although King Princess’ smash-and-grab take on “Here She Comes Now” runs a close second. Matt Berninger’s version of “Waiting For The Man” replaces the original’s ragged half-jog with a stately air that I’m not sure the composition and subject matter warrant, and both Kurt Vile’s take on “Run Run Run” and the Sonic Youth/Primal Scream tag-team on “Heroin” play it a bit too safe, going for volume more than anything else. St. Vincent has the opposite problem; she replaces the dream-haze of “All Tomorrow’s Parties” with a straight poetry reading of it, complete with robot voice as counterpoint. Courtney Barnett turns “I’ll Be Your Mirror” into a half-decent acoustic ballad but it feels a bit limp next to the skronky, squalling version of “European Son” that Iggy Pop and Matt Sweeney cook up. Overall it’s a cut above the usual tribute record, although as always it just makes me want to play the original.

Ada Lea – one hand on the steering wheel the other sewing a garden

★★★★

Released September 24th, 2021 on Saddle Creek Records

Cathartic folk-pop from a Montreal artist with a lot in common with a number of other alt-folk-rock women out there, like Big Thief with more textured, damaged bits ripped out of earlier eras – the Seventies, mostly.

Holy Hive – Holy Hive

★★★

Released September 24th, 2021 on Big Crown Records

Deeply indebted to Sixties psychedelic folk moves, Holy Hive manages to generate some interest based solely on Homer Steinweiss’ tight drumming; the rest of it is strictly take-it-or-leave-it.

Public Service Broadcasting – Bright Magic

★★★

Released September 24th, 2021 on Piccadilly Records

Moving away from samples and toward torch-pop singing and impressionistic musical strokes, the British experimental group crafts a three-part ode to Berlin’s wild Weimar period. They lose a little something in the transition, even if they do actually make beautiful mood music.

Nolan Potter – Music Is Dead

★★★★

Released September 24th, 2021 on Castle Face Records

Knife Party’s Nolan Potter is a home recording guru, the kind of guy who makes eight minute psychedelic epics from the comfort and safety of his own bedroom. Music Is Dead is his magnum opus – so far. As is fitting for John Dwyer’s Castle Face label, it’s a pounding collection of garage-psych music built on sturdy riffs and passages of nearly free-form noise.

One Step Closer – This Place You Know

★★★☆

Released September 24th, 2021 on Run For Cover Records

Between One Step Closer and Turnstile, 2021 is becoming something of a hardcore renaissance. Intricately arranged songs full of careening slam passages and devastating breakdowns, as well as poignant lyrics that detail the perils of heartbreak, alienation, loneliness, and watching the sun rise over your city.

The Ophelias – Crocus

★★★

Released September 24th, 2021 on Joyful Noise Records

Violin-drenched indie pop that manages to muddle through into a sense of coherency. Julien Baker guests on “Neil Young On High.”

Mac McCaughan – The Sound Of Yourself

★★★

Released September 24th, 2021 on Merge Records

Part of this sounds like the singer from King Tuff mining the miserable goth era of The Cure and parts of it sound like ambient space explorations. Is it coherent? No. But is it brilliant? Also no. Is it interesting enough to warrant a couple of listens? Probably.

The Lathums – How Beautiful Life Can Be

★★

Released September 24th, 2021 on Island Records

You can’t fool me. This is just bullshit hey! folk rock done slightly differently to avoid Mumford fatigue.

Film School – We Weren’t Here

★★★

Released September 24th, 2021 on Sonic Ritual Records

Pretty standard dream pop fare, but the group are veterans and so they get it done without many hiccups.

Pop. 1280 – Museum On The Horizon

★★★

Released September 24th, 2021 on Profound Lore Records

A new collection of noisy, squealy Eighties-tinged industrial tracks just in time for Halloween.

Caleb Landry Jones – Gadzooks, Vol. 1

★★

Released September 24th, 2021 on Sacred Bones Records

Simultaneously overdone and half-baked, this Sixties psychedelic pastiche is the worst thing I’ve ever listened to that Sacred Bones has put out.

The Muslims – Fuck These Fuckin’ Fascists

★★★★

Released September 24th, 2021 on Epitaph Records

One more time for the people in the back: FUCK THESE FUCKIN FASCISTS

Hayden Pedigo – Letting Go

★★★

Released September 24th, 2021 on Mexican Summer Records

Pretty hardpan soundscapes from an acoustic guitarist and self-described “son of a truck stop preacher.”

Nao – And Then Life Was Beautiful

★★★☆

Released September 24th, 2021 on RCA Records

A breezy contemporary R&B record with a sunny disposition.

Imperial Broads – Counterpart

★★★★

Released September 24th, 2021 on Broken Stone Records

The good thing about the Fall of Sleater-Kinney is that all their disciple bands now have their time to shine, and when they do it’s spectacular.

Rural Internet – Escape Room

★★★☆

Released September 24th, 2021

Damian Albarn might have thought he was onto something when he started calling Gorillaz a “virtual band” but in those early days he probably had no idea what the internet would bring in terms of bringing together musicians who existed only on virtual paper. Rural Internet are one such: a band comprised of members from Oklahoma and Australia, concocting a mix of indie hip hop, hyperpop, and blissed-out, bass-heavy production.

GAZZI – I Know You’ll Be Here

★★★☆

Released September 24th, 2021 on Breaking Bass Records

Deft, forward-thinking electronic music, studded with bass and breaks and laced with soaring blue-sky vocal samples.

Solemn Brigham – South Sinner Street

★★★★

Released September 24th, 2021 on Mello Music Group

As one half of Marlowe, Solemn Brigham has been featured by Gatorade, Seven-Up, and EA. For his first solo album, he examines the world that was and how its decayed over the years, bringing in the crumbling of the American world as a whole. He also shows off his acrobatic vocal styles, laying out impressive verse after impressive verse over thumping, complicated beats.

Lukah – Why Look Up, God’s In The Mirror

★★★★

Released September 24th, 2021 on FXCK RXP

It’s not just that Lukah has bars for fuckin’ weeks – it’s that the boom bap production has some of the most soulful, experimental beatcraft to ever hold up such a collection of hard thuggery. They don’t make albums like this much anymore (outside of Griselda) so grab it.

Blu – The Color Blu(e)

★★★

Released September 24th, 2021 on Nature Records

We get it, you’re blue.

Esperanza Spalding – Songwrights Apothecary Lab

★★★

Released September 24th, 2021 on Concord Records

Ms. Spalding’s fried-jazz ambient space explorations are something to behold on an individual basis, but over the course of an hour it is perhaps a little too avant-garde for its own good.

DJ Muggs & CRIMEAPPLE – Cartagena

★★★

Released September 24th, 2021 on Soul Assassins Records

Hard as nails thanks to Muggs’ expert production, but tends to be pretty one-note in terms of lyrical choices and atmosphere.

YoungBoy Never Broke Again – Sincerely, Kentrell

★★☆

Released September 24th, 2021 on Atlantic Records

If you’ve heard one YBNBA track, you’ve pretty much heard them all. One-note flows are a dime a dozen these days, and he’s one of the five better, which ain’t saying much.

Westside Gunn – Hitler Wears Hermes 8, Sincerely Adolf (Side B)

★★★☆

Released September 24th, 2021 on Griselda Records

A little slower, and a little more hit-and-miss than Side A, the stuff that hits continues (like “Celine Dion”) continues to make the case for Griselda as the Best in the Game.

Cognizance – Upheaval

★★★☆

Released September 24th, 2021 on Prosthetic Records

Ripping, brutal death metal with an absolutely guttural low end.

LLNN – Unmaker

★★☆

Released September 24th, 2021 on Pelagic Records

Some good headbanger moments but too many messier, incoherent moments between them.

Unto Others – Strength

★★☆

Released September 24th, 2021 on Roadrunner Records

Approaches good (or at least okay) in places but for the most part chooses to keep it in a snooze-worthy middle gear.

Paradox – Heresy II: End Of A Legend

★★★

Released September 24th, 2021 on AFM Records

Some decent groove-style riffing, and the singer makes a decent effort at NWBHM soaring vocals. Doesn’t quite hit it, but there’s an effort.

Rivers of Nihil – The Work

★★★☆

Released September 24th, 2021 on Metal Blade Records

Massive groove epics, with only a few moments of attention-wandering.

Veilburner – Lurkers In The Capsule Of Skull

★★★

Released September 24th, 2021 on Transcending Obscurity Records

A band with a knack for writing songs that muddle liquidly for the first minute before suddenly and fatally clicking in.

Succumb – XXI

★★★★

Released September 24th, 2021 on The Flenser Records

Fashionably stylish and yet barbaric beyond belief, Succumb bring a fetidly fresh breeze to the flashpoint of death and grind (or “Canadian War Metal”, as some have called them). They all play with appropriately fierce intensity, but Cheri Musrasrik’s inventive, surrealist lyrics set the band apart from their peers.

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